Accessibility First Content Development

Accessibility and AODA

Accessible design is good for all. Large public-sector organizations usually have large, multi-page, multi-department, and often cumbersome websites. How many times has someone tried to access information on such a site only to be frustrated and give up? How many times has that happened to you? It is a common experience for people both with and without disabilities.

Fustrastions with finding information on websites can be lessened through accessible and universal design. This means that content, presentation, and navigation are all clear, streamlined, and flexible. An accessible website is beneficial to all users and certainly to the organizations that create them because it means the website is better able to reach all members of a target audience.

The Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act, 2005 (AODA) became law on June 13, 2005. Under this landmark legislation, the Government of Ontario has developed mandatory accessibility standards that identifies, removes, and prevents barriers for people with disabilities. Disability impacts the lives of many Ontarians, and the numbers of people with disabilities is increasing. Today, 15.5% of Ontario’s population has a disability and this number will continue to grow as the population ages.

WCAG 2.0 Principles, Guidelines and Criteria

The AODA requires that beginning January 1, 2014, new public websites, significantly refreshed websites and any web content posted after January 1, 2012 must meet Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) 2.0 Level A. And beginning January 1, 2021, all public websites and web content posted after January 1, 2012 must meet WCAG 2.0 Level AA. WCAG 2.0 is an internationally accepted standard for web accessibility developed by the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C), an international team of experts. Following these guidelines should make it easier for everyone to access your website and content.

WCAG 2.0 has 12 guidelines that are organized under 4 principles: Perceivable, Operable, Understandable, and Robust. For each guideline, there are testable success criteria, which are ranked at 3 levels: A, AA, AAA.

Redeveloping a website to better serve people with disabilities also has these additional benefits:

Better Search Engine Optimization (SEO):

  • More headings and subheadings, as well as alt (alternative) texts for images, means more content is available for search engines to crawl over.

Accessible design works well with good mobile design:

  • No organization can ignore the popularity of mobile devices to access the web. A University or College looking to recruit more students will want a website that works well on a small screen. Walk-in clinics and ERs will want information on their locations and hours of operation easily accessed on a cellphone. Accessible design and responsive design share many best practices. For example, always including keyboard commands for navigation.

Reaching people less fluent online, people with low literacy, or those who are not fluent in the language of the site:

  • A University or College may also be looking to recruit continuing education or international students. A city website listing amenities and tourist attractions may be accessed by would-be vacationers speaking a myriad of languages. Accessible design includes these helpful elements: clear, simple, and consistent language; navigation and links; supplemental illustrations; blocks of information divided into groups with appropriately tagged headings and subheadings; text that does not blink or flash; and online forms that provide users enough time to read and use content.

Reaching people accessing websites in noisy environments or with hearing disabilities:

  • Captioning of audio content is essential for this group.

Reaching people with low-bandwidth connections or older technologies:

  • An organization cannot assume that everyone's access to the web is of the same quality. Accessible design emphasis on alt texts and text alternatives for all multimedia and images allows users to bypass these bandwidth-hogging elements without losing any information.

More about Accessibility

The following links will provide more information in regards to accessibility:

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